Newtown Families, Teachers and Advocates Demand Meeting with #1 Investor in Assault Weapons, Urge Cerberus to Live Up to Its Promise to Sell All Gun Holdings
National coalition intensifies pressure on Cerberus Capital Management to stop financing the company that made weapons reportedly used in Newtown and Washington, D.C. shootings
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 24, 2013
CONTACT: Aaron Black, 646-421-4045
NEW YORK – One week after the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard which left 12 dead, anti-violence advocates and families of victims of the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School rallied at the headquarters of Cerberus Capital Management to demand that the hedge fund immediately sell all investments in Freedom Group, the company that manufactured the assault rifle used in the Newtown shooting and the shotgun reportedly used in last week’s shooting in Washington, D.C.
Cerberus has not sold a single penny of its 94 percent stake in Freedom Group (now officially called Remington Outdoor Company Inc.), despite making a public commitment to divest in the days following the December 14, 2012 shooting.
Freedom Group is the leader in marketing high-capacity, military style assault weapons such as the Bushmaster XM-15, the assault rifle with a 30-round magazine used by Adam Lanza to murder 20 elementary school children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Freedom Group is also one of the largest donors to the National Rifle Association. According to a new report by the Violence Policy Center (available online at http://www.vpc.org/studies/bloodmoney2.pdf), the firearms industry has donated between $19.3 million and $60.2 million to the NRA since 2005, helping to block the passage of meaningful federal legislation to prevent gun violence.
“We know the terrible price of business as usual all too well. Companies like Cerberus profit from the sale of deadly assault weapons and the NRA’s obstruction of commonsense gun control—all while our communities are victimized,” said New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who has successfully pushed hedge funds and other major investors to end their investment in assault weapon manufacturers. “Cerberus needs to honor its promise to the victims of Sandy Hook and to all Americans whose lives have been turned upside down by gun violence by ending its investment in this destructive industry.”
Since Newtown, ten of the largest hedge funds and money managers have completely divested their gun holdings, valued at $170 million. Twelve more firms have scaled back their gun investments by 5.7 million shares—25 percent of their holdings.
Today, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY-13), and Geoffrey Eaton, President, NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch, joined Newtown families to demand a meeting with Cerberus and deliver a letter (available online at http://unloadtheguns.com/) on behalf of more than 30 advocacy groups telling CEO Stephen Feinberg to keep his promise without further delay.
“It is outrageous that Cerberus has not fulfilled its commitment to sell its holdings in gun manufacturers. Every day in the last nine months since Cerberus made its promise, every 30 minutes a child has been killed by a gun. With the human toll of gun-related violence this high, a commitment to do something about it should mean more than words,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
“Inexcusably, Cerberus continues to bankroll the company that made the assault weapon used in one of the worst mass shootings in American history,” said Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center. “Freedom Group then pays the NRA a million dollars, and the NRA lobbies Congress to keep these deadly assault rifles on our streets. There is an easy way for Cerberus to break this cycle: Keep their promise and end its investments in Freedom Group.”
“The gun industry epitomizes corporate irresponsibility by failing to exercise a duty of care for its deadly products, by refusing to modify its products to protect consumer health and safety, and by lavishly funding the NRA to obstruct federal gun safety legislation. It’s one big bad rotten apple,” said Leah Barrett, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
“Each time a senseless act of violence and tragic loss of life occurs, disingenuous individuals and organizations come forth with proclamations of action and change,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “But when the time comes to for action, they do nothing. It is utter cowardice and it must stop. We will not stand for empty promises any longer – America deserves better.”
“Did Cerberus really think we would forget about its promise to divest its interest in the Freedom Group, the maker of the weapon used at our school?,” asked Monte Frank, a board member of the Newtown Action Alliance. “We haven’t and we intend to hold Cerberus to its word.”
The event at Cerberus Capital Management was organized by the Campaign to Unload, a national coalition of more than 30 organizations which represent more than 20 million Americans. The coalition’s members include: New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, American Federation of Teachers, Newtown Action Alliance, MoveOn.org, Mom’s Demand Action, CREDO Action, Rebuild the Dream, Violence Policy Center, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Every Child Matters, GunFreeKids.org, Art Not War, New Mexicans for Gun Safety, Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, Protect Minnesota, Women Against Gun Violence, Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort Educational Fund, New Mexicans for Gun Safety, Ceasefire New Jersey, Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, Reston-Herndon Alliance to End Gun Violence, Bergen County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Sisters United, Sparrow Media, It Can Happen Here, Colorado Ceasefire Capitol Fund, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Iowans for Gun Safety, North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, GunSense Vermont, Brooklyn For Peace, Million Hoodies Movement For Justice, Heeding God’s Call, and Harlem Mothers Save.
To learn more, visit the coalition’s website at http://unloadtheguns.com/
Manufacturer of Assault Rifle Used in
Newtown Shooting Gave a Million Dollars to the NRA
Gun Industry “Corporate Partners” Donated Between $19.3 million and $60.2 million to the NRA since 2005, New VPC Report Reveals
Washington, DC — The National Rifle Association has received up to $60.2 million in donations from the firearms industry since 2005, including eight “corporate partners” that each gave a million dollars or more, a new report from the Violence Policy Center (VPC) reveals.
In the new report, Blood Money II: How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA, the VPC reveals that members of the gun industry have donated between $19.3 million and $60.2 million since 2005. And while the NRA claims on its website that it has no financial ties to the gun industry, its own publications, statements, and even awards ceremonies prove otherwise.
One of these “corporate partners” is Freedom Group, manufacturer of the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the mass shooting of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. Cerberus Capital Management, which owns a 94 percent share in Freedom Group, pledged to sell its investment in the days following the Sandy Hook shooting but has yet to uphold its promise.
After ramping up its financial support to a million dollars or more, Freedom Group’s leadership was inducted into the NRA’s Golden Ring of Freedom at the organization’s annual meeting in May 2013. The Golden Ring of Freedom is reserved for those who have “given gifts of cash totaling $1,000,000 or more,” according to the NRA.
A second inductee was Smith & Wesson, manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the July 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 dead and 58 wounded. In a promotional video on the NRA’s website, Smith & Wesson CEO James Debney explains, “I think it’s important for everybody to step up and support the NRA. They are our voice.”
VPC Executive Director and study author Josh Sugarmann, a native of Newtown, states, “Less than five months after the tragedy in Newtown, while families and the entire community still mourned, the NRA was celebrating its financial ties to the manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the shooting. In the wake of declining household gun ownership, the NRA has turned to the funder of last resort: the gun industry itself.”
The VPC first exposed the gun industry’s growing financial support of the NRA in its original Blood Money study, released in 2011. At that time, gun industry financial support of the NRA totaled between $14.7 million and $38.9 million. Since then, the giving levels have risen dramatically. (The exact total is not possible to know because in its promotional efforts the NRA only reports a range of giving levels within its “Corporate Partners Program” — for example, gifts between $1 million and $5 million and gifts between $500,000 and $1 million.)
Freedom Group, Smith & Wesson, and other million-dollar donors were honored at the “biggest, best NRA Ring of Freedom Brunch ever” during the NRA’s May 2013 annual meeting in Houston, according to the group. These “selfless, passionate, and devoted leaders” were given yellow sports coats, each with a Golden Ring of Freedom crest on the front pocket, and then took part in “what has become a joyous — and loud — Golden Ring of Freedom custom: the ringing of the ‘Freedom’ bell.”
The new report shows the NRA’s top corporate benefactor remains MidwayUSA, the official sponsor of the organization’s annual meeting for this and previous years. MidwayUSA sells ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other shooting accessories. MidwayUSA has donated more than $9 million to the NRA, primarily through its NRA Round-Up program, which rounds up customer purchases to the nearest dollar and gives the difference to the NRA’s lobbying arm.
Additional gun industry “corporate partners” that have given a million dollars or more to the NRA include: gunmakers Beretta USA, Springfield Armory, and Sturm, Ruger & Co; accessories vendor Brownells; and target manufacturer Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems. Donors that have given $250,000 or more include: Benelli USA; Cabela’s; and Glock.
In addition to direct donations, the NRA has embarked on an aggressive series of “sponsorship” programs funded by the gun industry. Gun companies sponsor specific NRA programs, online features, and memberships. This year, Brownells, headed by NRA board member and newly minted Golden Ring of Freedom member Pete Brownell, renewed its commitment as the “presenting sponsor” of the NRA’s “Life of Duty” program, which allows individuals or corporations to purchase one-year NRA memberships for members of the military and law enforcement. And in December 2012, the NRA announced that Smith & Wesson would be the “presenting sponsor” of the NRA Women’s Network.
To read the full report, please visit http://www.vpc.org/studies/bloodmoney2.pdf. The report includes a full list of gun industry members and their funding levels as well as extensive quotes from both NRA officials and gun industry executives extolling the growing financial links between the two.